Who would have thought colour psychology could play such a big part in your business life and career progression. No longer the preserve of fashion stylists and creative types, colour psychology has all manner of professional gentlemen pondering over colour charts and fabric samples in a bid to gain the edge in the business arena. OK, I may be exaggerating slightly to make my point, but colour psychology is becoming very important and if you ignore it, sticking to your tried and tested old faithfuls, you could be missing out big-time in your place of work and in the wider business sphere.
The fact is that colours have quite an effect on people – the people we deal with, collaborate with, are required to influence, lead and inspire. People we need to manage, manipulate, handle sensitively, etc. etc., every single day. Interior designers have known this for a long time – in fact, you’ve probably been part of (and possibly baffled by) many meetings and discussions to eventually settle on a colour scheme for the office, the boardroom, the rest areas. Businesses, hotels, bars, restaurants, airlines, schools, shops all exploit the concept of colour psychology – the list goes on. You may be interested to learn that a blue colour scheme and lighting was recently installed in a Tokyo subway station in an effort to reduce the number of suicides – and it worked!
OK, this is getting a little too serious for someone that sells men’s fashion, so I’ll lighten back up. I simply aim to impress upon you the importance of colour psychology in your life.
Knowing what colours to wear to variously engender trust, grab attention, inspire confidence, display empathy, motivate and exude authority is a pretty amazing trick to have up your sartorial sleeve. I’m not going to cover an exhaustive list of colours and their respective impact, but read on to discover how to harness some of the most popular and available colours at your disposal. But first let me pre-qualify, before you go and buy yourself a bright red suit – when I talk about using colours (especially strong ones), in the context of men’s tailoring, In the main, I’m generally talking about shirts, ties and accessories – and those little details that transform a traditional suit into something really special, like contrast stitching, buttons and linings. Things that are revealed under slightly closer inspection to add a challenging twist to convention.
So, let the colour psychology summary begin…
BLUE IS THE COLOUR
We may as well start here the king of the colour psychology world – blue is undoubtedly the most popular colour in men’s fashion and for good reason. It engenders trust, conveys a high level of assurance, competence and integrity. If you have some people you need to win over, new clients to impress, deals to close, blue is your boy.
But please don’t read this and think, “Yep, I have lots of blue, I’m good.” Every man and his dog has a blue suit, a variety of blue shirts and blue ties and the result of many of these ensembles is a tired look that is dull and carelessly pulled together.
If you’re going to do blue – please do the colour some justice. Get creative with your blends of blues, your shirt and tie patterns and textures, the cut and weave of your suit. Knowing blue has your back in the sincerity and reliability departments, you can afford to be a little more flamboyant with your choice of prints and patterns. Throw in some florals and geometrics and add a flourish with a pocket square or lapel pin.
Colour psychology – Blue items to choose: Obviously when we’re talking blue, you are good to go with a full blue suit or sports jacket, whatever the shade. We love that blue on blue tonal look, but blue shirts and/or ties also look great with black (especially navy), grey, browns and neutrals.
If you’re a fan of musical theatre, you may remember Lola’s monologue from Kinky Boots, that goes “Red is the colour of sex, and fear, and danger. And signs that say do – not – enter!” (You need to say this in a sexy voice with dramatic pause to get the full effect).
Red is the absolute antidote to blue. It’s a very stirring colour, sometimes unsettling, sometimes exhilarating. Red is powerful and strong. If you want to get noticed, put your opponent on edge, feel supremely confident making a speech or presentation, and generally feel like the top dog, choose red.
Use brighter reds in moderation, which can make you appear immature and insincere. Dark, rich or deep reds have much more authority and gravitas and will ensure you are taken seriously. That said; don’t slide too far along the scale to (god forbid) burgundy! Borrowing another phrase from Lola, burgundy is the colour of hot water bottles!!
Red will add a stunning edge to any navy, black or charcoal suit and done well, will make you feel like a million dollars.
Colour psychology – Red items to choose: if you’re not such a confident dresser, stick with ties and pocket squares in red – and maybe a jacket lining and trim detail. If you’re a little more adventurous, you could try a red shirt or red jacket, but keep it dark and rich – and make sure the fabric is amazing. In winter, a red vest or sweater can work a treat.
Yellows, ochres and golds are happy colours, but use bright shades sparingly as this is one colour that people can quickly tire of. Yellows and golds lend the wearer an aura of upbeat positivity, dynamism and energy. Great colours to wear if you need to motivate a team, meet new people at events or engage in networking.
Yellows of any shade suggest a logical and superior mind – a thinker with high levels of concentration.
Gold also represents money and choosing the richer, warmer, golden tones communicates an air of success and wealth.
If you need to impress, and maybe punch above your weight a little, gold will help you get there.
All shades of yellow and gold will work well with navy and charcoal, but be careful when pairing with black, as too much contrast can look harsh, brash and sometimes a little trashy. Subtlety is the key with this one.
Colour psychology – Yellow/Gold items to choose: Again, stick to accessories and knitwear. Vests in darker gold or mustard shades can also look amazing. Look out for gold highlights in tweeds and checks in both suiting and sports jackets.
ORANGE IS THE NEW ORANGE
Orange seems to be a polarising colour. It is associated with joy, warmth, enthusiasm and creativity. Orange lets the world know you are confident, ambitious, sociable and not afraid to be heard. This colour teams brilliantly with navy and charcoal – again black needs a little more consideration to pull the look off. Premium quality is the key if you’re daring enough to go for orange with a black suit – at all costs you’ll want to avoid looking like a Jetstar steward.
Unfortunately, orange’s association with construction, traffic cones and prison uniforms can have a negative effect on people’s perception of the colour and its wearer by association. It is sitting in the doldrums a little at the moment, but I have a feeling it will be making a grand re-entrance any time soon.
Colour psychology – Orange items to choose: It needs a bit of confidence, but we actually love this bold orange shirt with the blue suit in the pic below. Orange adds a striking highlight with just a tie and pocket square. And darker, burnt oranges look terrific with neutral shades and country tweeds.
It’s easy to think of green as the easy-on-the-eye, restful, caring colour, but green also has a certain plucky vitality. It is, after all, the symbol of life, growth and productivity.
Green shows you are ready for action and that you mean business.
Darker, richer greens denote power, class and experience. A smart choice for those moments you want to feel totally in command of a situation, with the kind of self-assurance that only comes with maturity and success. Green lets the world know that you are effortlessly in the driving seat – you have nothing to prove.
Colour psychology – Green items to choose: Darker greens, olives, and green & neutral blend tweeds can look amazing in suiting and sports jackets, but avoid light and bright greens or you will look like a leprechaun. Reserve bold and brighter greens for accessories and team a rich dark green tie with a mint green shirt. Depending on the shade greens will work well with black, navy, grey, charcoal and neutrals.
BACK TO BLACK
Stylish, sophisticated, elegant and glamorous – black has it all. Black demonstrates high influence, dominance and flair. It demands respect and exudes authority. You’d be forgiven for thinking it would be hard to put a foot wrong when opting for black, but please take note. Black can be unforgiving when it looks even the slightest bit tired, worn, rumpled or faded.
If you’re going to wear black, wear it with conviction – it must be pristine, sharp, premium quality and expertly cut.
Remember and all-black ensemble can be intimidating, so if that’s not the effect you’re going for, consider softening the effect with greys or blues. Pulling off that all-black look can be a challenge but will certainly turn heads if you get it right and is an accepted and popular choice in creative industries. Creative types are clearly not so easily intimidated.
The trick is to keep all your blacks in the same tone – black is most definitely not just black. Mix up fabrics, textures, mat and shine finishes for an ultra-sharp look. Oh – and always make sure to have a lint roller to hand before you leave home.
Colour psychology – Black items to choose: Anything! Suits, jackets, shirts, ties, accessories, Black with black, black with grey, black with navy, black with white, black with beige… I could go on, but you get the picture.
IN THE PINK
Now pink can be a tricky number. It symbolises compassion and empathy, which is perfect for any sensitive situations you may have to deal with. Men who wear pink are also perceived as being extremely confident, capable and courageous.
Women respond well to men wearing pink, so this is a great colour to wear if there is a large female contingent in your team, or your profession requires you to communicate with women on a regular basis.
But beware, too much pink is said to symbolise promiscuity and infidelity, which could undo all the positive perceptions you’ve created among your female colleagues. As a rule of thumb, opt for no more than two small elements to your outfit and you will nail the look to perfection – going all out with a pink shirt, a pink tie, pink pocket square and a pink lapel pin will have you perceived as a hopeless cad.
Colour psychology – Pink items to choose: Pale pink shirts will still look pretty conservative teemed with your grey or navy suit and tie. To get more adventurous, try a pale pink or patterned pink shirt with deep pink tie. The brighter you get with your pink shirt, you may want to lose the tie to avoid over-cooking it. Personally, I would keep items to shirts and accessories, but if you feel you could rock a pink jacket, it could look amazing. If you can wear it with confidence, why not?
A thrilling combination of the two biggest power colours, red and blue. You could say purple is the best of both worlds, effortlessly fusing all the best qualities of the trustworthy, reliable, dedicated blue with the passionate, dynamic, self-assured and exciting red. Throw into the mix purple’s regal connotations and association with riches and status – and the fact that (being perceived as a slightly more feminine colour) it also assumes the qualities mentioned in regard to Pink. That is that purple wearers are deemed confident, capable and courageous, yet compassionate and empathetic, and have the ability to connect with and engage women with ease and grace.
Sounds to us like you can’t go wrong with purple.
Of course, there are many shades of purple from lavender to violet and lilac. Generally (as with all colours) the darker shades command more respect and lend an air of gravitas, where lighter, softer shades are more endearing and imply sensitivity.
Colour psychology – Purple items to choose: Until I found this pic below, with the heather purple suit, I would have said keep your purples to shirting and accessories, but I have to admit this guy looks the business. It all comes down to shade, tone and fabric, so if you keep the colour on the sophisticated spectrum, go ahead and colour your world purple.
Some people wear grey to go unnoticed – and there are, indeed a lot of grey men in grey suits out there, blending into their grey environments. But get this look right and you’ll be looking as sleek and stylish as a silver-grey fox. Grey can look oh-so sophisticated and keeps on looking sharper for longer. Timeless and understated grey exudes intelligence and higher intellect, combined with serenity, depth and integrity.
Go for a tone-on-tone medley of greys for an effortlessly elegant look, but be sure to keep your shades in the same palette. Keep to all cool greys, all warm greys, all steel greys, or all greenish greys. They really don’t mix well across the tones.
Colour psychology – Grey items to choose: You really can’t go wrong with grey – again, keep it tonal, mix with black, white and other neutrals and contrast with just about any other colour.
I hope you find this short guide somewhat helpful in your daily outfit planning, that our advice nets you some nice compliments and makes you feel confident and in control at the right times and in the right places.
There are many more nuances at play when it comes to colour. When choosing red, for example you need to find out whether warm reds or cool reds bring out the best in your complexion and present you in the very best light. And there are warm and cool versions of every colour we’ve talked about today. But that’s a story for another day.
Suffice to say for now, if you’d like to book a consultation with our expert colour specialist, just give us a call.
Photo credits, Pinterest